Childcare Works HAF delivers national support contract for the Holiday Activities and Food Programme


Since April 2021, DfE has contracted Childcare Works HAF to deliver national support for the Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) programme across all councils in England.

Childcare Works is a partnership between Hempsall’s and Mott MacDonald and follows our successes in delivering the Achieving Two-Year-Olds (A2YO) national support contract (2012-2016). During which, we worked on the implementation of the free early learning entitlement for least advantaged two-year-olds. A project that saw take-up levels rise to nearly 70% of eligible children. And the Childcare Works 30 Hours childcare programme (2016-2020) that introduced 30 hours of childcare for three- and four-year-olds of working parents.

We know from first-hand experience school holiday activities have been wide ranging and delivered over decades. Recently it has been very interesting to see how the Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) Programme has emerged (since 2018), collected evidence and real-time learning and has developed to become this national £220m programme for 2021. It’s a mission we fully support. Reaching and engaging children eligible for benefits-related free school meals (FSM) has far-reaching and wide-ranging benefits across all of government and society. Our mission is for it to be a success for the long-term benefit of children and families.

“The 2018-2020 pilots gave us lots of learning and evaluation and we listen intently to the experiences of those involved in delivery since. All of our experiences, in every English LA, throughout 2021 have shown amazing results and highlighted what needs to be done to deliver HAF at its best.” James Hempsall OBE.

Based on reporting from local authorities, over 600,000 children and young people attended the holiday activities and food programme in the 2021 summer holidays. Over 495,000 of these participating children were receiving benefits-related free school meals, and the remainder were considered by the local authority to be otherwise in need of this holiday provision.

Over Christmas 2021, local authorities reported that over 335,000 children received support through the programme; over 270,000 children attended the programme face to face and over 125,000 were supported remotely this Christmas, with some children receiving both face-to-face and remote support. As expected, more children participated in the programme in the summer, when it was available for a significantly longer period.

In April 2022, Ecorys UK published an Evaluation of the 2021 holiday activities and food programme - GOV.UK ( The report highlights a range of positive impacts for children attending the holiday clubs, including in terms of their enjoyment, socialisation and levels of physical activity. The reports also makes recommendations for the future delivery of the programme.

Childcare Works HAF takes the role of working with LAs and providers to identify how things are being planned and how they are progressing, identifying what gaps we can fill in terms of information, support and guidance, and challenge – where needed. We are particularly concerned with:

  • Planning and coordination
  • Sufficiency, supply and demand mapping, and identifying risk and gaps
  • Reach and engagement of families, children, young people and partners
  • High quality activities and enriching experiences, food and nutritional learning
  • Legal compliance, meeting standards in H&S and safeguarding
  • Understanding and meeting the needs of disadvantaged children, inc. SEND

Our approach is to work alongside LAs and to help review and measure planning and delivery progress, to share and move information around, connect LAs together to work collaboratively towards solutions to shared problems (in cluster meetings, peer support, and online training sessions), celebrate when things are going well, and offer direct support where barriers arise - we do this in a universal way (available to all) and in a targeted way (where the need is greater). You can find out more on the programme’s knowledge hub

Childcare Works